MOON OVER MARQUETTE
Marquette area gets partial eclipse
If you were looking through a pair of special eclipse glasses, you’d have known why things were different.
From about 1 to 3 p.m. Monday, the Marquette area experienced a partial solar eclipse, with about 75 percent of the sun obscured by the moon at the “maximum” time of around 2:15 to 2:30.
A total eclipse was seen by people situated in a swath of land about 70 miles wide from near Lincoln City, Oregon, to Charleston, South Carolina.
The event marked the first total solar eclipse visible in the continental United States in 38 years.
A solar eclipse takes place when the moon casts a shadow on the earth, fully or partially blocking the sun’s light in some regions. Observers in the path of totality saw the sun’s corona while viewers outside the path saw a partial eclipse.
Northern Michigan University’s Physics Department offered the public an opportunity to safely view the partial solar eclipse through a telescope equipped with a sun filter at the NMU Observatory Dome Monday afternoon.
Visitors also watched the NASA streaming video of the eclipse in a nearby classroom.
Sam Towers, an adjunct professor of physics and astronomy at NMU, helped visitors obtain a safe view of the eclipse through the use of Sunspotters, which projected the image of the diminishing sun on a piece of paper, making it look like the moon was eating the sun.
As a bonus, sunspots also showed up on the paper.
Towers explained how the Sunspotters — which allowed viewers to “see” the sun without looking at it — worked.
“We are shining some of the sun’s light into these devices so it’s safely projected onto a piece of paper because we can’t look at it directly,” Towers said.
The NMU event was extremely popular. In fact, it was so well attended a line to see the eclipse through the telescope extended out the West Science Building’s doors onto the lawn.
Crowds also waited to visit the Seaborg Center’s Starlab, a portable planetarium.
Lisa Mattson, secretary for the Seaborg Center, said staff didn’t expect the large number of people who showed up.
“We were anticipating it based on the phone volume that I’ve had in my office and then the publicity that we’ve had on social media and with the media outlets as well,” Mattson said.
However, she acknowledged it was gratifying to see the big crowd since it provided them a good educational opportunity.
Even 12-year-old Drew Kreis, of Marquette, who viewed the partial eclipse with a pair of safety glasses, was pleased to see all the people.
“I think it’s pretty amazing,” Drew said.
In town for a visit was Patricia Willeke, of Oxford, Ohio, who came prepared with eclipse glasses.
“I think I’ve seen a partial, but nothing like this,” Willeke said.
She knew Marquette would get a 75 percent eclipse, but was still excited over the event.
“You can see the little chip coming out,” Willeke said as the eclipse was beginning.
Many youngsters frolicked on the West Science Building lawn, unaware of the notable astronomical event taking place, but many others took part in special activities, such as making pinhole projectors with cups, paper and rubber bands, and creating “eclipse art.”
Larry Buege, a member of the Marquette Astronomical Society, said in an email that fellow members spread out across the United States to view the total eclipse.
“My wife and I chose Rexburg, Idaho, because Idaho has fewer people and the skies are more likely clear,” Buege said. “We were worried that smoke from forest fires might ‘rain’ on our parade, but the skies were crystal clear.
“We set up housekeeping in one of the city parks. The city went all out to make us feel welcome — and take our money. I bought a hat and my wife purchased a T-shirt.”
The park quickly filled with serious astronomers and casual sightseers, he said.
“The first segment of the eclipse, known as first contact, was no different than what was seen in Marquette,” Buege said. “The moon slowly bit into the sun. I have seen partials before so I knew what to expect.
“The sun became smaller and smaller. The temperature dropped almost 15 degrees. We had been feeling hot and now we were becoming chilled. Finally, there was only a small sliver, then just a speck of remaining sunlight. I took my protective glasses off and the small speck of light sparkled like a brilliant diamond. Intellectually, I knew this would happen, but I was unprepared for its beauty.”
A red rim around the moon completed the classic “diamond ring,” Buege said.
“In a second this was gone and the feathery glow of the sun’s atmosphere, known as the corona, emerged,” said Buege, who noted the corona is always present but is normally overshadowed by the much brighter sun.
In the center of the corona was a black hole created by the moon.
“The visibility of the corona is what separates a partial eclipse from a total eclipse,” Buege said. “Most people are disappointed by the small size of the sun. It is much smaller than most people think.”
Buege was prepared to view the total eclipse with his binoculars, which he pointed out were safe only during the total phase, but the corona extended several sun diameters out from the blackened sun.
“I set my binoculars aside and just enjoyed the beauty,” Buege said. “When the diamond ring first appeared to usher in the total phase of the eclipse, there were oohs and aahs from the crowd similar to a spectacular display of Fourth of July fireworks. Then there was a spontaneous applause.
“Viewing an eclipse should always be done in a crowd.”
He said that many people have the false belief the sky will be as dark as night during a total eclipse.
“I was able to see Venus, which was quite bright, but no other stars,” Buege said. “As I looked around, it appeared to be just post sunset 360 degrees around.”
Buege said he tried to shoot the spectacle but it was too difficult, plus he didn’t want to miss the 2 minutes and 17 seconds of totality.
The next total solar eclipse visible over the continental United States will be on April 8, 2024.
Christie Bleck can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.